« on: August 11, 2015, 09:50:04 PM »
Final Fantasy games tend to feature recurring creatures (Chocobo, Moogle, Cactuar, Bomb, etc.) and concepts (Phoenix Down, Black Magic, White Magic, spell names ending in -ra or -ga, airships, the job system, at least one guy in the cast named Cid, four elemental crystals as the central McGuffin), but each game is a contained story with its own unique hooks.
Here's a brief explanation of each major game in the series:
Final Fantasy: Released on the Famicom in 1987 and NES in 1990. Here, you make a customizable party of four using the six jobs (Warrior, Monk, Thief, Black Mage, White Mage, Red Mage). Notable in that it borrows pretty heavily from D&D (a lot of the monsters are taken straight out of it, and the spells don't have an MP pool but a number of charges that can only be restored by a night's rest). It's been ported a lot, but none of the ports are as frustrating as the original FC/NES release.
Final Fantasy II: Released on the Famicom in 1988. Was almost fully localized but didn't actually make it to the NES. Notable for being the first game in the series to feature a party of named characters who leave and join you as the story progresses. Also notable for the unorthodox stat system: Instead of Exp. grinding, you increase each stat by doing a different thing (e.g. fight a lot to increase Attack, cast spells a lot to increase Magic, take damage to increase HP, etc.). Has also been ported a lot, but none of the ports have the bug that let you increase your stats quickly.
Final Fantasy III: Released on the Famicom in 1990. Didn't make it to the NES. Features an improved job system with many more jobs and the option to change your party members to any job at will. Has been remade for Nintendo DS, now with names attached to the previously generic party members.
Final Fantasy IV: Released on the Super Famicom in 1991. Released on the SNES as "Final Fantasy II", since Square skipped the previous two games. This one features a party of (pretty memorable!) named characters and is considered a classic by many. It's also the source of the infamous localized line "You spoony bard!". It's been remade a few times, but personally I think the SNES release has the most charm.
Final Fantasy V: Released on the Super Famicom in 1992. Didn't make it to the SNES. Features four named characters who can utilize the job system, which has been improved even further. Notable for being the first RPG to be fully translated by fans, and is probably the most famous fan translation ever. Has also been remade for the PS1 and GBA.
Final Fantasy VI: Released on the Super Famicom in 1994. Released on the SNES as "Final Fantasy III" since Square skipped the last game. Stars a party of named characters. This is where FF began to veer away from straight medieval fantasy and transition into grittier urban fantasy with a dash of steampunk. Considered to be one of the best games on the SNES. You probably won't need any of the remakes. Notably features a 2-player mode where a friend can pick up the second controller and command one of your party members.
Final Fantasy VII: Released on the Playstation in 1997. Whether you love this game or hate it, it's impossible to deny the sheer impact it had on the industry and gamers everywhere. For a lot of young players, this is the first time anybody bore witness to a game that tried to be this level of serious. For years on end it was considered one of the best games ever made, much like 'Ocarina of Time'. It's now known for being milked to death by Square, with a number of direct sequels and spin-offs that bear the FF7 name. Recently a full-budget remake was announced for PS4. Heads understandably rolled. Gameplay-wise it features little thingies you can equip called 'Materia' which enable you to customize your party's abilities to your liking.
Final Fantasy VIII: Released on the Playstation in 1999. This is another one of those weird stat system revamps, wherein each party member is assigned a summon monster that lets them physically suck magic out of an enemy and use that to change their stats and commands around. Story-wise it's set in something considerably more science fiction-oriented than any of the previous games. A few years ago it was known for being reviewed by then-popular Internet comedian 'Spoony'. I think he may have single-handedly turned swarths of people against this game. :P
Final Fantasy IX: Released on the Playstation in 2000. It's an adorable lighthearted throwback to FF4, and probably the most stylistically cartoony game in the main series. It's also my personal favorite. Sadly, Square pays no attention to it whatsoever. Go figure.
Final Fantasy X: Released on the Playstation 2 in 2001. Known for being the first game in the series to be fully-voiced, and also the first game to get a direct sequel outside the main series ('Final Fantasy X-2'). The traditional stat system has been eschewed for this thing where you pick your stat bonuses and abilities by moving around a grid putting spheres into holes. 'Spoony' also ripped this one to shreds, I think producing an Internet meme in the process. Or maybe that was around before he covered it. I forget.
Final Fantasy XI: Released on the Playstation 2 in 2002. This one's not just an RPG, it's an MMORPG. That alone should tell you how this one compares to the rest. If you want to get into an FF-themed MMO, this is the game for you. From what I understand, it's still running even to this day.
Final Fantasy XII: Released on the Playstation 2 in 2006. It's set in a specific world called Ivalice, which is also the setting of the FF Tactics games and a few others bearing the FF12 name. By now the battle system has slowly begun to morph into something more real time rather than turn-based, and there's yet another stat system revamp where you have to earn "licenses" for each spell and ability when you level up.
Final Fantasy XIII: Released for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2009. All I ever used to hear from people is how much this game sucked, citing its linearity as a major negative point. Apparently you can't control your two fellow party members in battle either.
Final Fantasy XIV: The most recent game in the series, it was released for Windows in 2010. It's another MMO! Notable for its incredibly negative reception after it was released, so much so that Square-Enix had to shut the game down in 2012, revamp it, then relaunch it in 2013 as "A Realm Reborn".
For "beginner's guide" of sorts, your best bet is 'Final Fantasy I + II' for the GBA. It's a pair of enhanced remakes of the original ''Final Fantasy' and 'Final Fantasy II' (the one for the Famicom). They're much easier and more graphically pleasing than the originals. In a later post I'll discuss some of the various side games and spin-offs. I'm kinda tired right now.